Biodiesel in USA and Brazil

Aastha Sinha
Purdue University

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now


The main goal of the paper is to give an overview of biodiesel and a in depth look at the production, price and economic impact of the fuel in Brazil and the United States. Those two countries are the world’s largest producers of biofuels. The paper begins by giving a brief introduction to biodiesel and its history and usage in the world. The second part of the paper deals with biodiesel in Brazil. and that is followed by biodiesel and it’s impacts in the United Statements. The paper concludes with talks about the future of biodiesel in the world.
Keywords: Biodiesel, Brazil, USA

Biodiesel in USA and Brazil
What is biodiesel?
Biodiesel is a long chain of alkyl esters fatty acids derived from renewable biological sources such as vegetable oils and animal fats and recycled cooking oils, which can be used as a substitute for petroleum-based fuel in diesel engines. Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but it can be blended with petroleum diesel in any percentage to create biodiesel blends. In chemistry terms, biodiesel is fatty acid methyl esters and they are called biodiesel only when used as fuel in diesel engines and heating systems. It is one of different types of biofuels in the world others being ethanol and biogas. It is the fastest growing biofuels in the world because it is biodegradable and low greenhouse gas emissions.

Historical Background
The diesel engine was developed in the 1890s by inventor Rudolph Diesel to provide an alternate to the popular yet inept steam engines. It works on the principal of compression ignition. As the fuel enters the cylinder it self-ignites and burns rapidly, forcing the piston back down and converting the chemical energy in the fuel into mechanical energy.
For most of the 20th century petrochemical diesel was used to power the diesel engine, however World War II led to an interest in using vegetable oils to fuel diesel engines, due to large increase in petroleum prices. But the old engines couldn’t work with this alternate fuel, since they aren’t designed for it and the use of biodiesel didn’t take off. Though this interest resulted in a lot of research and in 1937 a Belgian scientist, G. Chavanne devised a process to extract ethyl ester from palm oil and this process created a product that was very close to modern biodiesel. The oil crisis the 70’s also pushed for more research in alternatives to petroleum. However, biodiesel wasn’t popular until the early 1990’s when concerns over the environment, energy security, and agricultural overproduction once again brought the use of vegetable oils to the forefront. By the early 2000’s, biodiesel quickly become one of the fastest growing alternative fuels in the world, due to its clean emissions profile and ease of use.
Biodiesel is produced straight from natural oils and fats. The entire process used to convert these natural oils to biodiesel is called transesterification. In the transesterification process a glyceride reacts with an alcohol in the presence of a catalyst forming fatty acid alkyl esters and an alcohol Fukuda, 2001. A triglyceride has a glycerin molecule as its base with three long chain fatty acids attached. The characteristics of the biodiesel are determined by the nature of the fatty acids attached to the glycerin. During the process, the triglyceride reacts with alcohol in the presence of a catalyst, usually a strong alkaline like sodium hydroxide. In most production, methanol or ethanol is the alcohol used and is catalyzed by either potassium or sodium hydroxide.
The figure below shows the reaction a triglyceride (fat/oil) with an alcohol to form methyl ester (biodiesel) and glycerol. The first step is the conversion of triglycerides to diglycerides, which is followed by the conversion of diglycerides to monoglycerides and then to glycerol, resulting in one methyl ester molecule from each glyceride at each step.

Source: Fuduka,2001
Environmental Benefits of Biodiesel
Biodiesel are a great alternative to other petroleum products because of many reasons. One of them is that it produces less greenhouse gas emissions as compared to petroleum diesel. An analysis completed by Argonne National Laboratory found that B100 use reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 74% when compared with petroleum diesel. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) reported similar values from various sources for its life cycle analysis of biodiesel.
Another great benefit of biodiesel is that causes far less damage than petroleum diesel if released to the environment and is less combustible. The flashpoint for biodiesel is higher than 130°C, where is it is 52°C for petroleum diesel. This makes biodiesel safer to handle and transport. The third benefit is that biodiesel is also produced from waste products and renewable sources.
Economic benefits of Biodiesel
The biodiesel industry has contributed greatly to the domestic economy of producer countries. Since it is domestically made, it also helps lower the imports of petroleum-based diesels and also decrease dependency on fossil fuels. At the same time, it helps create livelihood for a bunch of farmers and creates jobs for people to work in its industry. Using domestic products is always good for the economy of a country. Countries producing excess biodiesel can also benefit from export.

Current usages of biodiesel
Today, biodiesel is mainly used in the transportation industry. Any vehicle that operates on diesel fuel can use biodiesel, so most trucks and cars in the world can run on biodiesel. Low-level biodiesel blends like B2 and B5 are popular fuels in the trucking industry because of excellent lubricating properties, so the blends can benefit engine performance. Usage outside the transportation industry are basically also replacements for petroleum diesel. Biodiesels can also be used as heating oils. Also, due to its solvent properties is can be used to treat oil spills in a more environmentally friendly way Y.F, 2015.
An increase in the use of biodiesel fuel is projected in the coming years.
Global change in Biodiesel use in the recent years
The demand for biofuels has increased drastically in the last decade due to environmental concerns. Policies of the European Union and other countries of the world are changing to increase the reliance in biofuels. Examples of such policies include the Renewable Energy Directive in the European Union, that requires the EU to fulfil at least 20% of its total energy needs with renewables by 2020 and all EU countries must also ensure that at least 10% of their transport fuels come from renewable sources by 2020. Other countries like Brazil, China and US have introduced blending mandates to lessen dependency on fossil fuels. These reforms are expected to increase biofuel (including biodiesel) demands globally.
Today, the United States and Brazil are the top biodiesel producers in the world. This paper attempts to give a concise summary of biodiesel in these two countries.
Biodiesel in Brazil
Brazil’s Biodiesel Policies
Brazil first started to invest in research to find and develop alternative and renewable fuels in the 1930’s. During that time, it was a pioneer in biodiesel research. Later, during the oil crisis, the government began a program called PROALCOOL, which regulated the use of hydrated ethanol as fuel and asked for anhydrous ethanol that could be blended with petroleum gasoline. Unfortunately, after the drop of petroleum prices in the international market, this program was abandoned in 1986.
In the early 2000’s Brazil again began its discussion on the use of biodiesel, and many studies were done in the country. In 2002, a different method to convert called ethonolysis of vegetable oils was considered as the main route to a petroleum diesel substitution program called PROBIODIESEL. From then on, the country has continuously made efforts to increase biofuel use and decrease petroleum dependency. Today, Brazil has aggressive policies to promote the use of renewable fuels. The important policies in the country that paved the path for today’s policies include the National Biodiesel Production and Use Program (PNPB), the was started in 2004, to increase the acceptance of biodiesel.
In 2005, another law was passed that mandated a minimum 5% biodiesel by 2013. These requirements were constantly changed over the consequent years and by September 2014, the biodiesel mandate rose to 6%. Brazil also joined the Paris Accords in 2016. As of March 2018, Brazil increased the volume of biodiesel blended with diesel sold at the pump to 10%. The government is also working to increase the country’s biofuels output and decrease oil-product imports.
Production and Consumption
Brazil’s Biodiesel production is regulated by its government very closely. Its biodiesel production has been on a constant raise since 2015. The total Brazilian biodiesel production for 2018 is projected at 5 billion liters, because of the increase of the biodiesel blend to 10 percent (B10) in March 2018. Since, soybean is most prominent agricultural product of Brazil, so even though it features low oil content, it is the most use raw material in the production of biodiesel fuel Cremonez, 2014. According the Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels National Agency (ANP), around 70 percent of biodiesel produced is made from soybean oil, and 17 percent is made from animal fat.
Brazilian Biodiesel Monthly Production/Deliveries (000 liters)
Month 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
January 226,505 245,215 319,546 271,388 255,361 337,818
February 205,738 240,529 303,594 300,065 259,812 338,420
March 230,752 271,839 322,692 323,158 335,069 452,310
April 253,591 253,224 324,526 348,485 347,603 446,164
May 245,934 242,526 338,851 328,814 369,316 383,126
June 236,441 251,517 322,185 292,772 359,236 466,918
July 260,671 302,971 341,094 337,435 387,236
August 247,610 314,532 344,038 327,183 399,997
September 252,714 312,665 330,388 313,309 398,707
October 277,992 321,603 359,166 341,024 409,344
November 265,176 316,627 324,662 321,560 386,941
December 214,364 348,962 306,526 296,145 382,671
Total 2,917,488 3,422,210 3,937,269 3,801,339 4,291,294 2,424,755
Source: ANP.

The consumption of biodiesel in brazil has two main factors, the mandatory blend and the GDP of the country. In 2017, the consumption of the fuel was 4.3 liters. Brazil has kept up the PNPB requirements fairly well, and this is the reason the consumption of biofuels in general in the country has been so high.

Biodiesel prices received by producers in Brazil are set by a public auction system. As of January 2018, the average price of biodiesel was around USD 735/ton.

Export and Import
The export of biodiesel is Brazil is fairly less compared to its production, because most biodiesel is used domestically. Brazil only exported 2.31metric tons of biodiesel in 2017, according to the APN. Due to its high biodiesel production, Brazil imports no biodiesel. This is because the PNPB requires that only domestically produced biodiesel is to be used in auction.

Biodiesel in the United States
USA’s Biodiesel Policies
Like in the case of Brazil, research into alternative energy sources was sparked by the oil crisis in 1970’s. However, like most of the world, United States started to take biofuels seriously in the beginning of 21st century.
The government of the United states has made many efforts to promote the use of alternative sources of energy. The policies have evolved from subsidization to mandate and due to this the production of biofuels has dramatically increased. In 2004, the Biodiesel tax credit was established, which give consumers a $1/gallon credit. Moreover, many different policies are currently being implemented to promote bioenergy, including the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
Most of the policies are followed, though they aren’t as well implemented as in Brazil. This is one place where United States can improve.
Production and Consumption
The production of biodiesel in the United States has also been on a steady raise, as was the case with Brazil. USA is the largest producer of biodiesel in the world. Biofuel production in the States uses corn and soybean as it’s main feedstock.
The biodiesel industry has commercial production facilities everywhere in the country. The biodiesel product in 2011crossed the one-billion-gallon production mark for the first time. In 2016 the market was a record high 2.8 billion gallons, according to EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) figures. The industry’s total production continues to significantly exceed the biodiesel requirement under the Federal Renewable Fuel Standard and has been enough to fill the majority of the Advanced Biofuel requirement. As an added benefit, the industry supported about 64,000 jobs nationwide.
The consumption of the fuel in United States as also been on a raise steadily. And according to EPA, in 2017, the total volume of biodiesel came to 1.96 billion gallons.

Source: EIA Monthly Energy Review, Table 10.4
The price of biodiesel in USA is dependent on the price of soybean. As of October 2018, the price of biodiesel was 1.24k per ton according to Neste.
Import and Export
The United States imports biodiesel from countries like Argentina and Indonesia since production isn’t enough to meet domestic consumption. United States does not export significant amount of biodiesel.
To conclude this paper, I would like to say that biodiesel production is just going to increase worldwide and because of it’s many benefits, it is going to become one of the major fuels in the world. Both the cases (USA and Brazil), have shown as that biodiesel should regulated by the government and the use of biofuels enforced.
The future of biodiesels is very bright and the uses of this environmentally friendly fuel is sure to increase.

1. André Cremonez, Feroldi, Cézar Nadaleti, De Rossi, Feiden, De Camargo, . . . Klajn. (2015). Biodiesel production in Brazil: Current scenario and perspectives. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 42, 415-428.

Talks about the production of biodiesel in brazil.

2. Biodiesel, Retrieved October 29, 2018 from

This entire website provided a lot of important recent data information on brazil and it’s biodiesel production, consumption etc.

3. Biodiesel Benefits and Considerations. (n.d.). Retrieved from

This website gives a easy to understand list of benefits of biodiesel.

4. Demirbas, A. (2009). Political, economic and environmental impacts of biofuels: A review. Applied Energy, 86(1), S108-S117.

This article talks about the benefits and disbenefits of biodiesel in the world. A good resource for my paper.

5. Da Silva, S., ; Chandel, A. (2014). Biofuels in Brazil Fundamental Aspects, Recent Developments, and Future Perspectives.

This book helped me understand biofuels in general as well as the situation with biofuel in brazil. I only read three chapters (13,14 and 15), that were related to my topic.

6. Fukuda, Kondo, ; Noda. (2001). Biodiesel fuel production by transesterification of oils. Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering, 92(5), 405-416.

Explains how oil and fats are turned into biodiesel.
7. Monthly Energy Review. (2018,October) Retrieved from

8. Ng, Yan Fei, Ge, Liya, Chan, Wen Kiat, Tan, Swee Ngin, Yong, Jean Wan Hong, ; Tan, Timothy Thatt Yang. (2015). An environmentally friendly approach to treat oil spill: Investigating the biodegradation of petrodiesel in the presence of different biodiesels. Fuel, 139(C), 523-528.

Talks about how biodiesel can help in treating oil spills, I use this to explain one of the uses of biodiesel.

9. Pousa, Santos, ; Suarez. (2007). History and policy of biodiesel in Brazil. Energy Policy, 35(11), 5393-5398.

Gives the history and policies of biodiesel in brazil.

10. Seymour, F. (2015, March 5). Biofuel Subsidies: Bad Policies, Bad Examples for Development. Retrieved October 29, 2018, from

Talks about polices on biofuel and how they aren’t the best for development.

11. Stattman, Hospes, & Mol. (2013). Governing biofuels in Brazil: A comparison of ethanol and biodiesel policies. Energy Policy, 61, 22-30.

Helped me understand the policies of biofuels/biodiesel in Brazil.

12. Vicente, Mart??nez, & Aracil. (2004). Integrated biodiesel production: A comparison of different homogeneous catalysts systems. Bioresource Technology, 92(3), 297-305.

Talks about what biodiesel is and how it is produced